UNC Research Week: Santos looks to epigenetics to identify factors that effect cognitive development in preterm children

To celebrate UNC Research Week, we are highlighting just a few of the incredible nursing scientists here at SON.

Project
Genetic and Epigenetic Effects on Childhood Cognitive Trajectories

Principal Investigator
Hudson Santos, PhD, RN

Children born extremely preterm exhibit much higher rates of cognitive function impairment — such as trouble remembering, learning new things, concentrating or making decisions — during early childhood and through to adulthood when compared to those born full-term. Ranging from mild to severe, cognitive function impairment can significantly impact an individual’s day-to-day life.

Hudson Santos’s study will examine relationships among gene variants, DNA methylation, neonatal inflammation and developmental trajectories of cognitive function in extremely preterm children from ages 2 to 17 years. This study will be among the first to identify genetic and epigenetic factors that can be used to determine a child’s risk level, as well as molecular processes that can be the targets of early risk-mitigating interventions to improve quality of life for children born extremely preterm.